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State College Queens embrace growing community, prepare for another story hour

For the State College Queens director, makeup is a key piece of transformation

David Borges, the director of the State College Queens, does his makeup to transform into Alonya for a photo shoot on August 7, 2019.
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David Borges, the director of the State College Queens, does his makeup to transform into Alonya for a photo shoot on August 7, 2019.

A second Drag Queen Story Hour will be held next month in Centre County, and the State College Queens are ready.

The story hour — slated for Sept. 7 at Schlow Centre Region Library — is an example of a growing number of events the group participates in throughout the area.

“We started off in the community doing one show every three months. No one knew there were shows and almost no one knew what drag was,” said David Borges, who performs as Aloyna and is the director of the State College Queens.

Other events include Drag Bingo at Webster’s Bookstore Cafe and drag shows at venues including Cafe 210 West, where elaborately dressed drag queens and kings dance, lip-sync and perform playful monologues in front of a crowd.

“The drag culture has changed so much in State College. When I first started going to shows, things were very underground and gritty. Now the grit is still there, but the shows have become more regular and at more venues,” said performer Hunnybun.

In recent years, the State College Queens have also added more members, and Borges is excited to see how the newcomers make the stage their own.

“It went from a cast of seven to ten, to a cast of almost 25 performers,” Borges said.

Elaine Meder-Wilgus, the owner of Webster’s, hosts Drag Bingo night in her coffee shop once or twice a semester. It’s a night where State Queens call out numbers, hand out prizes, and use their larger than life personalities to bring the night to life.

“I love hosting those kind of events because they are so important in helping people get immersed in a different kind of culture,” she said. “It’s important for me to have inclusive events, and allow people to be who they are.”

The newest event that has taken place on the State College Queens’ itinerary is Drag Queen Story Hour, a national program where drag queens interact and read to children in order to promote diversity and acceptance. The story hour made its State College debut in March, with more than 100 people bringing their children to Schlow Library, where organizer Tamra Fatemi rented the community room.

Drag Queen Story Hour hosted an event featuring the State College Queens at Schlow Centre Region Library on March 16, 2019.

Across the country, the story hours have received backlash and protests from conservative groups, and the State College event wasn’t immune to negative feedback. While there were no protests, Fatemi said she and the library received emails criticizing the event.

“The protests and backlash do not scare me,” Fatemi said. “It makes me more determined to continue doing this for as long as I can.”

She received a Penn State Student Engagement Grant in order to continue the event.

“I really want to make sure the people in this community have the opportunity to bring their children to this event. I think it helps teach empathy and the fact that we’re all just people even though we may dress a little different,” Fatemi said.

For members of the State College Queens, the Story Hours are another example of the growing community.

“I started doing drag in 2015 and we were way behind where drag was in bigger cities. Only four years later, and State College drag is matching, if not exceeding, expectations for the kind of talent you would see in big cities,” said performer Bea Hunnybun.

State College Queens members attribute a lot of their growth to social media. They’re on Facebook and Instagram, where they updated followers on when and where their next shows will be.

“This community can continue to grow by spreading awareness to all different people. This doesn’t just mean the Penn State community, but the State College community as well,” performer Bonzai Bucket said.

Drag Queen Story Hour will be held 10-11 a.m. and 11 a.m.-noon on Sept. 7. For more information and to register, visit the story hour page on Facebook.

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